What happens when you bring a gathering of airline chief executives together on a panel with the theme of ‘What keeps Airline CEOs awake at night?’?
The quick answer is, probably, lots, such as the the dreaded 2.00am phone call in the middle of the night. There were some very frank answers at this session – but there were also some kicking-for-touch replies.
Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of IAG, pointed out that the cost of fuel is now 30% but with with some low-cost carriers it can be as high as 50%, this makes capacity decisions being made much more speedily, as market forces are now in play. He went on to criticise those “damned regulators” who impose conditions on things we can’t control, such as bird flu in China and the crazy decision to close the skies over Europe during the Icelandic volcanic eruption. He also said that he was worried about the Spanish economy, as it needs to undergo change. “We in IAG are creating jobs in Iberia Express and losing jobs in Iberia, the restrictive labour laws need to change,” he said.
David Barger, Chief Executive of JetBlue, said that what kept him awake was the issue of consolidation in the USA. “It was hard to sleep during the last few years as we are a target for a takeover, which we don’t want,” he said.
Christoph Mueller, Chief executive of Aer Lingus said that after three years of change you need a break, but it is not as the next four years are always a worry. It is vital that you continue to communicate with your staff, he added. Commenting on the three attempts by Ryanair to take over Aer Lingus, he said: “If you run a movie three times, you easily fall asleep. I believe Ryanair puts me very asleep because it’s the same show all over again. I am also concerned about the number of new aircraft that are currently on order.”